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Tarapur MIDC blast: Day after explosion, factories assess damage, losses

Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health has formed a probe committee, the report of which is expected in two days

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
Updated: March 11, 2018 11:43:32 am
maharashtra factory fire, chemical factory explosion, tarapura midc blast, palghar factory blaze, industrial development corp area, indian express MIDC fire brigade continued cooling operations in the six affected factories on Saturday. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

A day after a massive chemical blast ripped through Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) area in Tarapur, killing three and injuring 15, factories located around Novaphene Specialties Pvt Ltd, where a chemical reactor exploded leading to a fire in six factories, have started surveying the damage.

On Saturday, MIDC fire brigade continued cooling operations — expected to end late night — in the six affected factories. A preliminary probe by fire department shows fire fighting equipment were in place at Novaphene Ltd.

“When search operations were on, we found fire extinguishers in the charred premises. The labourers got no chance to use them because the blast occurred first and then the fire started,” said MIDC fire station officer Anand Parab.

The blast, however, damaged several units around the chemical factory.

Wiring production unit Darbar Industries, which stood one factory away from Novaphene in MIDC, suffered damage to its windows and computer screens. Its tin roof was also damaged by the explosion. “Our factory did not catch fire, but the damage due to blast is severe. We don’t know how we can claim damages. I filed panchnama in MIDC police station,” said owner Bharat Ghosalia.

Repairs in his wiring plant will begin once cooling operations are over.

Unimax Chemicals, located behind Novaphene Ltd, was partially gutted by the fire. Its manager Uday Dange said, “When the fire started spreading, solvent tankers in the adjoining factories started exploding. That led to a chain reaction. Half of our factory is charred. It will take time to assess cost of machinery and the material we lost.”

Unimax’s first and ground floor caught fire last after the fire spread from Novaphene Ltd to Aarti Drugs Pvt Ltd, Prachi Pharmaceuticals, and Bharat Rasayan. In UPL limited, which is a lane away from Novaphene Ltd, window panes and glass doors shattered due to the blast.

READ | Three die in Tarapur industrial unit: Set up in 1978, Tarapur MIDC has an infamous history of accidents

Manager Swaminath Pandey said, “The entire area started shaking due to the blast. All glass works were shattered not just in our factory but in multiple lanes.”

The explosion is believed to have been caused when methane chloride gas was added to a solvent of magnesium turnings and tetra hydro chloride, initial findings of Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) states. The solvent became unstable under high temperature and high pressure. The DISH has formed a committee to investigate the blast, the report of which is expected in two days.

“We are waiting for the directorate to submit its report. An FIR will be registered after that. Nobody has been detained so far,” said Yogesh Chauhan, senior police inspector at MIDC police station.

According to Manish Holkar, attached with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), no advisory has so far been issued following release of toxic fumes from the burning solvents in MIDC. “Since there were six factories that caught fire, and tankers in each had different solvents, we cannot ascertain the nature of gas released. The air is still full of smoke in the industrial area, but we expect it to clear in a few days,” Holkar said.

On the matter of Bhaba Atomic Research Centre not sending fire tenders despite a distress call, Palghar district collector Dr Prashant Nanaware said, “Inquiry against BARC has already started to assess why they did not promptly provide fire tenders when a disaster call went to them.”

On Friday night, MIDC police registered a case under Disaster Management Act, 2005, against BARC for negligence in providing firefighters to control the fire. The fire engines had come from MIDC fire station, Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation and Reliance Thermal.

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